A Bolton cheerleading squad has made sports history after winning gold in the world championships in the USA.

The Team England Special Abilities Unified Pom are the first ever young athletes with disabilities and some with no disabilities, from England, to compete in the International World Cheerleading Championships in Disney World Florida, USA.

They competed on May 24 and 25 and have now been awarded gold medals making them ICU World Champions.

And since their victory, they are now inspiring other coaches across England to make special abilities teams.

Rumworth School teacher Gina Stafford, 33, who lives in Bromley Cross, was appointed as the coach by the National Governing Body Sport Cheer England, to prepare the team for the opportunity.

She noticed that there were not as many opportunities for those with disabilities or neurodiverse athletes in sports, and she wanted to change the narrative.

Half of the athletes with special needs are from Rumworth and some of the additional needs that the athletes have include ADHD, autism, learning difficulties and different chromosomal disorders.

Gina said: “The girls were all really shocked when they announced we won, and I was too, I was just really proud to hear that Team England was being called up for a gold medal.

The Bolton News: The Team England Special Abilities Unified Pom The Team England Special Abilities Unified Pom (Image: Gina Stafford)“It was a huge recognition for all of our athletes with special educational needs because it just proves that they could do it and they could get themselves to America, proving that they could do it and get us gold medals, it was like the icing on top of the cake really.

“They were all really emotional and really proud when they found out they won the gold medals.

“A lot of them were also crying happy tears and I think it just gave them that reassurance that actually what they are doing is the same as everyone else really, they can work hard and achieve well and do great things.

“Winning these medals will boost their confidence and I have already seen that there has been another special abilities team created elsewhere in the country, so it has put them on a bit of a platform really for other coaches to see that these opportunities can work for younger athletes with special educational needs.

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“So hopefully we will have more inclusion in our sport really, that’s what we are aiming for and that is what the girls are helping to create.

“I have worked on this project for three or four years now and it was July 2023 when we got given the green light for the pilot project.

“For people with disabilities there is always like an element of wondering if something could go wrong but at every step of the way they were absolutely fine.”

The Bolton News: The gold medalThe gold medal (Image: Gina Stafford)The success comes after the pilot programme took place in collaboration with Cheer England, and if the pilot turns out to be a success hopefully a team of neurodiverse athletes and those with additional needs will compete again.

Gina says she wants to thank all the parents and families for believing in the opportunity.

She said: “I would just also like to thank everyone who has supported us on our journey, we had a really successful fundraising campaign which meant that none of the athletes had to pay for any of their merchandise or kit.

“So that was a massive help to parents, I would just like to thank anyone who supported us with fundraising or has given us donations.”

Sport Cheer England send around 190 athletes, staff, and entourage to the ICU World Cheerleading Championships each year.

For more information follow their official Instagram page.

If you have a story or something you would like to highlight in the community, please email me at chloe.wilson@newsquest.co.uk or DM me on X @chloewjourno.